Monday, June 18, 2012

Visiting Friends, Part 2

While in Knoxville, Tennessee I visited the Smoky Mountain Quilt Guild and even though they weren’t having Show & Tell that evening, they wanted to see what I had brought along. The program that evening included a lesson on Zentangle drawing and its possibe applications for quilters. The teacher guided us through the creation of a small Zentangle “tile.” Here’s mine, nothing complicated:
However, all the tiles put together made an interesting ensemble. It can be seen that there is no right or wrong way to do it--variety makes this picture interesting.
Personally I’m not particularly sold on such methods. For example, while working on the tile, I kept thinking that quilters had been doing this for centuries, inventing designs to fill in their patchwork and hold together their quilts. And with the same meditative advantages that Zentanglers propose. I realize that artists need to make a living, but I found the commercial aspect somewhat annoying. You need a special pen and special (expensive) paper, and of course the books. My “make-do-with-what-you-have” side revolts. However, it was a good program and an enjoyable evening. 
         I attended “Thursday Bee” several times. This small, jovial group tends toward the artistic side. No particular structure or rules, just casual and fun. Rule-breaking allowed. Patty, whom I introduced in Part 1, worked on one of her circle quilts that includes some very interesting fabrics:
                                 Tone wore a lovely reversible felted vest.
                                 Deb had several projects going, all very fun.

                                Diane worked on her exotic bird appliqué.
                Allison's choice of batiks and warm colors plus a simple design 
                                            makes an elegant strip quilt.
    Sheila was doing a felt appliqué to commemorate her granddaughter's birth.
                                     Sandy sported a dragon fly purse
                                   Linda's bee quilt is a marvel of precision.
And so, my greetings and thanks go out to the Smoky Mountain Quilt Guild and Thursday Bee. I shall return!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Go Relax at the Beach

Possibly, just possibly, I expressed too much negative sentiment concerning the beach and I consequently jinxed myself and all of Tunisia. Allow me to rectify. There exist several good things about the beach and one of them is that everyone spends days on end relaxing in the sun and swimming. In the past, things like increases in food or gas prices often occurred in the summer while everybody was basking. Sneaky, but effective.
           Recent events suggest that this pattern has been interrupted, and not for the better--the government ordered a curfew June 12th after mobs rampaged in several areas. The spark: an art exhibition in which several paintings were judged morally inappropriate by the vocal extreme right minority. What "morally inappropriate" means remains unclear. The last day of the exhibition several men requested that the gallery take down certain paintings done by a woman, or there would be consequences. The gallery refused and the police came, which did not deter aggressors, who also attacked several police stations and a courthouse later in the evening.  Rioting occurred in the Medina (Old CIty) of Tunis as well. And as if things weren't bad enough, we can now say good-by to the tourist trade for this summer, further aggravating unemployment. The head of the religious party in power maintains that all goes well in Tunisia. Maybe he's living in a parallel universe...
            On a lighter note, beaches provide possibilities for finding treasures, 
                                               notably seashells.
Seashells III (Dec. 1998, 40"x56"/1mx1m41) is machine appliquéd, pieced and quilted.
Seashells V (Dec. 1998, 38"x72"/96cmx1m79) is machine appliquéd, pieced, and quilted as well.
       The water effect is created by bits of fabric sewn down to a foundation fabric. 
                                      This piece brightens my living room.      

        And may I suggest that everybody head for the beach and cool off ???

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Empty Cups

How many times have you heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day? A plate of scrambled eggs (ok, no egg yolks [deep sigh]) with some cheese and turkey ham energizes me for the morning. And then the smell of that first cup of coffee fills the room—ah-h-h-h, yes.
         Lately in blogland, numerous artworks, quilts, and fabrics contain images of tea or coffee pots and cups that cheer us up. Here’s mine:
The shadows were created on the background fabric with thinned acrylic paint. The coffee pot and cups are machine pieced with mostly commercial fabrics from flea market clothing although there is at least one of my hand painted fabrics as well. Constructing the tablecloth with several of my grandmother’s doilies made this piece exciting for me
                                       despite it’s overall blah colors.
                                                   Here’s the back:
Can’t get more blah than that. I’m not sure if I’m jumping on the bandwagon of cheerfulness. Indeed, the central panel with coffee pot and cups was made over fourteen years ago in response to a French poem that French language teachers use to teach a past verb tense, the “passé composé.”  And so this art quilt is dedicated to a newcomer to the endangered species list: the French language teacher.
         French poet Jacques Prévert had a different take on breakfast : he spoiled it.  However, his poem serves to express feelings of abandonment in such a way as to make this the saddest poem I know. Written with simple words and short, direct sentences, it speaks of those terrible, deep feelings that we have all felt at some point in life when loved ones turn their backs on us with indifference. This is the poem in French [with my translation] that I stitched around the coffee pot.

Le Déjeuner du matin                                The Morning Meal

Il a mis le café                                            He put the coffee
Dans la tasse                                               In the cup
Il a mis le lait                                              He put the milk
Dans la tasse de café                                   In the cup of coffee
Avec la petite cuillère                                 With the coffee spoon
Il a tourné                                                   He stirred
Il a bu le café au lait                                    He drank the coffee
Et il a reposé la tasse                                   And he put down the cup
Sans me parler                                            Without speaking to me

Il a allumé                                                   He lit
Une cigarette                                               A cigarette
Il a fait des ronds                                         He made rings
Avec la fumée                                             With the smoke
Il a mis les cendres                                       He put the ashes
Dans le cendrier                                           In the ashtray
Sans me parler                                             Without speaking to me
Sans me regarder                                          Without looking at me

Il s’est levé                                                   He stood up
Il a mis                                                         He put
Son chapeau sur sa tête                                 His hat on his head
Il a mis                                                         He put on
Son manteau de pluie                                   His raincoat
Parce qu’il pleuvait                                       Because it was raining
Et il est parti                                                 And he left
Sous la pluie                                                 In the rain
Sans une parole                                            Without a word
Sans me regarder                                          Without looking at me
Et moi j’ai pris                                              And me, I took
Ma tête dans ma main                                   My head in my hand
Et j’ai pleuré.                                                And I wept.

--Jacques Prévert (from Paroles, 1946)

Such sad emotions affect us profoundly. We try to avoid them. Around the coffee pot, cups and table the vague form of a house takes shape, walls and a roof made with square pieces, apparently solid and orderly, nothing out of the ordinary. Protection. Neutral colors...
We try desperately to create order in our lives, filling them with routines and with objects like coffee pots and cups and linens. We build structures to keep out the wind and rain.
                      And then the foundations shake and the walls crack.
                                        Our world temporarily falls apart.
The two empty coffee cups represent two emptied people as well. The use of stained doilies and several satins and brocades (raw edges showing) to create the tablecloth suggests aging, fraying, and decay. A leaf pattern takes over the tablecloth, and dead leaves fall onto shaking foundations like teardrops. Empty Cups (June 2012, 43"x35"/110cmx89cm) is hand embroidered, appliquéd, and quilted, and machine pieced, appliquéd and quilted. 
I first stitched the white background with a running stitch, then embroidered the words with an outline stitch. Hand quilting was required in this part because of the serious buckling that happens when I attempt to do something that you're not supposed to do. The motto "It will all quilt out" serves me well.
           For the shaking foundations, I appliquéd beige fabric with tiny scraps, 
                added machine stitching in black, then sliced it to create turbulence. 
                 The black fabric contains machine stitching to add movement.
                                 Sometimes we must remember difficult moments 
                                to keep our perspective and to count our blessings.